THE STORY: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg star in Martin Scorsese’s new crime drama “The Departed.”
“The Departed” is set in South Boston where the Massachusetts State Police Department is waging an all-out war to take down the city’s top organized crime ring. The key is to end the reign of powerful mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) from the inside. A young rookie, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), who grew up in South Boston, is assigned to infiltrate the mob run by Costello. While Billy is working to gain Costello’s trust, another young cop who came up from the streets of “Southie,” Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), is quickly rising through the ranks of the state police. Earning a spot in the Special Investigations Unit, Colin is among a handful of elite officers whose mission is to bring Costello down. But what his superiors don’t know is that Colin is working for Costello, keeping the crime boss one step ahead of the police.
Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operation he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the gangsters and the police that they have a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin find themselves in constant danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy—and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself.
THE REVIEW: It’s not just the all-star cast or the great script—it’s the magic that Martin Scorsese seems to bring out of the combination of both. There are so many occasions when a great script is made poorly and a bounty of stars fall into a mess of a film. Scorsese does his best not to miss a grand opportunity.
Just like Good Fellas, Scorsese takes a cast of brilliant actors and gets the more than any one director ever could. Good Fellas was different. The movie featured actors who had careers playing thugs. The Departed is a completely different matter. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio seem a bit too flimsy to be real-life mafia members. And yet they pull it off. We never even questioned Jack Nicholson. He could go into a movie and play a woman and we’d still give him the benefit of the doubt.
The story is a great one. Scorsese knows how to pick them and that is why he is able to lay such a great foundation. The canvas already lay and Scorsese paints of grand picture with actors that appear to go beyond their abilities. Most surprising is the ability of both DiCaprio and Damon to keep the movie in their capable hands without letting Nicholson walk away with every scene. It’s a wonder that Nicholson can keep up, but he is fed such great lines he really can’t help it.
FRANKLY: The Departed is in lockstep with Scorsese’s classic Good Fellas. It seems almost sacrilegious to compare the classic movie with The Departed. And yet The Departed is a movie you’ll want to watch again and again. The Departed just might be a classic—only time will tell. That will be a surprise for movie fans because we have started to expect much less from Hollywood. And then Scorsese and The Departed come along. The Departed is a glimmer of hope that great movies can still be made without a hundred-million dollar special effects budget. Can you say “Oscar”?
+ Charlie Craine